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Dad Scares Me & Makes Me Feel Worthless

Published: July 12, 2012
Dear Dad Scares Me & Makes Me Feel Worthless,

My dad scares me. He would never hurt me, at least I don't think, so I feel like I have no reason to be scared. But when my mom isn't around he is really mean sometimes. He is super nice to her face but then will freak out when shes not around and call her a b*tch and get really mad. When she isn't home he expects me to know everything, like where everything in the house is and how to cook certain food. When I don't know he gets really mad and says mean things. I have 5 sisters, but I am the oldest sister in my house, 2 of my sisters are older and moved out. I am 17 and I feel like my dad hates me. I don't talk to my mom because of other issues that no one understands and my dad gets extremely upset when I don't. It doesn't matter how many good things I do, he always finds something to yell at me for. I have an eating disorder which I am slowly recovering from, but he thinks I make it all up for attention. He lied to my therapist and told her he didn't notice any weight loss and I was faking when I was sitting right across from him. He doesn't know it, but he makes me feel worthless. Sometimes at night I cry just because of the way he looks at me and I know I am just a disappointment.My sister that is 15 is perfect in his eyes, she never gets in trouble, and he insists I bully her. I don't though and it hurts that he likes her so much more. I will never be as perfect as her. The worst part is, I have lost my voice at home. Something in me doesn't allow me to speak my mind, a while back I taught myself not to because I hated getting in trouble. Now I literally CAN'T. Also, I have a very bright personality. I can be really funny and smart and just in tune with everything, but anytime I am around my parents that gets turned off. I can't explain it, but suddenly I have NO personality. I stare into space and that's it. My voice is monotone, I don't laugh, I don't cry, I don't show anger. But I can't control it, it just happens. Is any of this normal??


Dear Dad Scares Me & Makes Me Feel Worthless,

First, TeenHealthFX would like to say that even though your father has never physically hurt you, we can appreciate why you would still feel scared by his actions. He has hurt you emotionally with his words, from what you have described. And what you see in your father is that he has significant anger he is dealing with – anger that can be powerful, unpredictable, and hurtful to you in terms of how you are left feeling. It also sounds like you may be feeling somewhat powerless about how to deal with his temper, as well as feeling alone in the situation. Add all of that up and FX can appreciate your anxieties around him.

As for your statement that you no longer laugh, cry or get angry – this makes sense to FX as well. Given what you have been dealing with over the years, FX would imagine that you have a lot of pain and anger buried inside of you. One of the ways in which those feelings may have manifested themselves is through your eating disorder. FX would imagine that this pain and anger could potentially be so strong, it might be too much to tolerate – so it has gotten buried. And when we bury our negative feelings, our positive emotions (like happiness that shows itself through laughter) can get buried with them. It’s like your feelings are running water coming out of a faucet – the good and the bad, the hot and the cold – and in order to avoid getting connected to the negative emotions, you just have to shut the whole thing off. The result is that you won’t feel the anger, but you won’t feel the happiness either.

One of the things FX is concerned about is some of the self-beliefs you have internalized as a result of your interactions with your parents. It sounds like you feel you are a
“disappointment” and that you feel “worthless.” You are dealing with a father who can come down on you very hard at times and who can be verbally cruel, and you are dealing with a mother who it sounds like is not protecting you from his rage. Children and teens who deal with these kinds of situations often come to believe that their parents’ anger, lack of protection, or other negative emotions and reactions are a statement about them as opposed to indicating problems their parents struggle with. That said, FX wants to stress to you that your father’s rage and your mother’s difficulty being there to adequately protect are a reflection of their own personal issues – they are NOT a reflection of how lovable, likeable, or special you are.

FX thinks that in moving forward, it would be helpful for you to consider the following:

  • Do you feel you have your therapist as an ally for you, who can be there to support, guide and protect you in the way you need? You mentioned your father lied to your therapist, but you didn’t say whether or not your therapist believed him. If you do not feel your therapist is in your corner, then FX thinks it is very important for you to find a therapist who can be there for you in a warm, supportive way.
  • Whether with this therapist or someone new, FX thinks it will be very important for you to address the negative self-beliefs that you have formed (i.e., thinking you are worthless) as this is certainly going to affect the severity of your eating disorder, your mood, your sense of self, and the power of your voice.
  • At some point when you feel ready to tolerate it (this might not be for many years), it will be helpful for you to work through the pain and anger that is connected to what you have endured at home so you are not keeping it bottled up.  
  • FX thinks it would be helpful for you to meet with a family therapist who can address the relationship issues between your parents and you. It might be helpful for you to have someone different from your individual therapist for this so your individual therapy can feel like a safe, secure place just for you. You can ask your current therapist (or your new therapist if you switch) for recommendations for a qualified family therapist.

FX is truly sorry for all of the pain and sadness you are feeling. We want you to remember that contrary to what you wrote, you are NOT a disappointment – rather your father is someone who needs to relate to people as if they were disappointments. There is a big difference. Hang in there, make sure you have the supports you need, and know that TeenHealthFX values you and your voice.

 

If you need some additional support, if you live in New Jersey you can call 2NDLFOOR, a confidential and anonymous helpline for teens and young adults, at 1-888-222-2228. If you aren’t from NJ, please call your local United Way or 211 for assistance and support.

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.

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